Dear John, I Love Jane, edited by Candace Walsh and Laura Andre (Seal Press)
Edited by Candace Walsh and Laura Andre, Dear John, I Love Jane is an original collection of essays that focuses on women who left their men for other women. It is about the fluidity of sexuality and the variety of experiences and realities represented in the term "queer woman."
In the foreword, Dr. Lisa M. Diamond, Associate Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies and the author of Sexual Fluidity, begins with a bold claim: "This gripping collection of first-person narratives will undoubtedly expand and deepen your understanding of women’s sexuality, whether you are gay, straight or somewhere in between." It’s bold, but true.
The editors of the book, professional and life partners, have their own compelling back-stories, which they share in the introduction. While Andre never seriously dated men, Walsh is a divorced mother who spent most of her life as a "bona fide" heterosexual.
Similar to Walsh and Andre, the essays here encompass a genuinely wide range of voices from women of all different backgrounds—cultural, professional, and sexual. In "The Right Fit," Kami Day tells the story of growing up in the Mormon Church and how, after years of a stressful and sexually unfulfilling married, she finally came to terms with her attraction to other women. "I remember one day in particular: I was dressed in a denim maternity jumper and red knee socks, standing in the middle of the living room, contemplating driving to Corpus Christi to find a female prostitute." (If that quote doesn’t get you to buy the book, I don’t know what will).
In "Walking a Tightrope in High Heels," Michelle Renae recounts the story of how she met and fell in love with her husband Jo at a small, liberal arts university that catered to Evangelical Christians. Though her intimate life with her husband was initially strong, she soon found that her feelings for women were interfering with her marriage. Renae writes with insight about the challenges and reactions that she and Jo have faced since deciding to open their marriage.
Some of the other affecting essays include Libbie Miller’s "Leap of Faith," which tells the story of how she dealt with coming out to a husband she genuinely loved for years, and is now deployed in Iraq. In "Watershed," Veronica Masen explains why she decided not to leave her husband and family for a woman that she fell in love with. "So now I am in limbo. I am celibate, and introspective, and shell shocked… There are days I know I am a lesbian, that I always have been and always will be, but for now I am choosing not to honor that part of myself purely out of a sense of responsibility and loyalty to my family."
Our own Trish Bendix offers one of the lighter essays with "Credit in the Un-Straight World," a humorous take on how her first crush on a girl forced her to reconsider her late blooming sexual identity: "My subconscious had no plans to bed a man. My conscious mind said I’m just not that kind of girl. The thing is, I’m totally that kind of girl. I’m just that kind of girl for a girl."
Dear John, I Love Jane is an engaging, important and thoughtfully edited collection. Highly recommended.